A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia (Scribner)
The manuscript arrived with little warning. Faded, yellowed, stinking of cigarettes, it was page after typewritten page of unbroken and misspelled text. There were colons everywhere and its author, a self-described “hermit” named Bob who lived in the Californian desert, had sometimes typed letters on top of one another, or had crossed words out and written in new ones. He summarized its contents on a cover page:
this is a true story of a boy brought up in berkeley
california durring the sixties and seventies who
was unable to identify with reality and there for
labeled as a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic
for the rest of his life;
In A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia, Bob’s niece Sandra Allen tells his story faithfully to his account. She details his coming of age, chaotic even before the day he was locked in a psychiatric cell and injected with Thorazine. Her book follows Bob as he quests for love, friendship and stability, living in and out of hospitals, in a halfway house, and on a commune. He becomes a logger, a welder, and a street preacher in Louisiana. He joins the Air Force and for three days is kidnapped by aliens. Is this, to use Bob’s word, NUTS? Written in two fonts, A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise animates the complicated nature of truth itself when telling stories about schizophrenia. Relying on carefully navigated interviews with her extended family and the galaxy of characters her uncle attracted, Allen illuminates the experience of knowing and caring for someone with his diagnosis. She deftly unpacks the history of what’s known about schizophrenia — and what’s not. She traces the history of mental healthcare in America from its earliest days to its very dire present, when our nation’s largest psychiatric hospital is a jail.
Eight years in the making, but with an urgent message for our moment, this electrifying work is groundbreaking in its style and its spirit. It’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets House of Leaves, with the literary soul of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. It will be read and discussed not only by those whose lives and work are affected by schizophrenia, but by any reader interested in better understanding these complex topics.
Meticulously reported and daringly written, A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise is poised to change the conversation about mental illnesses — and those told they have them.
Sandra Allen grew up in Muir Beach, California. She attended Brown University and received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. A former BuzzFeed editor, she lives in New York. A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia is her first book.
Photo by Robert Dubbin
Amanda Chicago Lewis writes about marijuana and the war on drugs, with an emphasis on public safety, the influence of special interests, and the ways in which the documented racial disparities of drug law enforcement are being cemented into the details of legalization. She writes a biweekly column for Rolling Stone. Her work has also appeared in GQ, BuzzFeed News, Vice, LA Weekly, Pop Up Magazine, and the LA Review of Books.